Gosh. It's been about thirty years since I've visited Callaway Gardens near Pine Mountain,
GA -- and Jim's never been there -- so when a friend
reported that the azaleas were at peak bloom, it prompted us to go. It's
only about an hour's drive from our current home in Peachtree City.
Before we drove down there I did some research on the resort's website
to re-familiarize myself with the layout and to see what was new since
I'd been there in the 1980s and 1990s.
I noticed that the annual pass looked like a good deal for folks who
live relatively close and can visit several times a year. It also
includes two complimentary passes for guests. That gave us more incentive to check it out since my brother and sister-in-law planned to visit
in a couple weeks. I knew they'd enjoy the beautiful landscapes,
whatever flowers were in bloom in mid-April (rhododendrons!), and the
Along the Azalea Overlook Trail
OK. Let's go!
Callaway Gardens is one of the premier places in the country to see
acres and acres of mature azaleas when they are at peak bloom. Although
that's the main attraction in March and April, plenty of other things
are blooming in the spring and summer, too, and all sorts of activities
and special events are planned year-round to entice visitors to come.
Since we knew the gardens would be packed on weekends while the
azaleas were at peak bloom, we drove down with the dogs early on a
Thursday in late March to see what's new, walk some trails with Holly
and Casey, and take photos.
You can't go to a beautiful garden like this and not take photos!! I
took a bunch, although it was trickier with a young exuberant dog on-leash. The place
Azalea Overlook Trail
Imagine my disbelief and disappointment when I tried to download a couple hundred
photos from my fancy Sony bridge camera to my computer . . . and there
were NONE on the memory card! And I didn't take any with my phone that
OMG and worse came out of my mouth.
Yes, the card was in my camera. No, it wasn't full; it has a
huge capacity. What happened, apparently, was that the card wasn't all
the way down in its slot. I was so busy looking around, keeping Holly
close to me, and trying to keep up with Jim that I didn't see any messages on the
screen or check periodically to verify that I was actually recording photos.
Dammit. So I did what any avid photographer would do:
I drove back down to Callaway Gardens -- alone -- the next day and
took lots more photos!
Twice as many, in fact -- more than 500 on the big camera and my
phone. And you better believe I was checking that Sony camera about
every third picture to make sure the card was recording.
I'll bet the photos were better the second time. It was much easier by myself to
compose the shots, stop as long as I wanted to gaze at the gorgeous
scenery, and walk/drive other places in the park that Jim and I didn't
go yesterday. I got there early enough that the only place that was crowded
was the Butterfly Center, which I didn't reach until 1 PM.
Cecil C. Day Butterfly Center
Most of the photos in this multi-page series are from March 29, except
for one with the dogs that Jim took the day before with his phone.
Some of the azalea varieties had already peaked by late March but some others
had not bloomed yet. Bloom time varies from year to year, as well as by
type of azaleas, so check the Callaway Gardens website for updates
on peak blooms if you're traveling from any distance.
Dogwood and redbud trees were in bloom, too, as
well as mountain laurels, some early rhododendrons, and lots of
wildflowers. Something is blooming year-round in Middle Georgia.
Callaway Gardens is big -- 2,500 acres big. It's hard to see
everything in one day if you want to do some hiking, cycling, golfing,
or other activities in addition to driving around the lakes and going into the Discovery
Center and butterfly conservatory.
Here's a tiny version of the
property map from the website:
I'll organize this series of five entries by starting at the center bottom of the map
at the Overlook Azalea Garden Trails and work my way clockwise around
large Mountain Creek Lake to the Azalea Bowl, Memorial Chapel, Discovery
Center, Wildflower Trail, and Butterfly Center.
Note that much of that driving loop is one-way going clockwise around
Mountain Creek Lake.
I also drove up to Robin Lake the second day and checked out more of the golf
View of Robin Lake looking toward the
OVERLOOK AZALEA GARDEN TRAILS
During the spring when the azaleas are in bloom the area most
visitors head to first is the Overlook Azalea Garden, not just because
it's the main show but also because it's the first spur road on the left
(clockwise) past the main gate.
The parking area wasn't crowded when we got there at 9:05 both
mornings, right after the gate opened, but it could be full later in the
morning/afternoon on a busy day.
The yellow lines = hiking trails, red ones
= bike paths, white = roadways.
There are restrooms near the
entrance to the Overlook parking area and a long
pavilion at the end of the lot,
overlooking the azalea gardens and Whippoorwill Lake.
A network of soft woodchip trails winds down the hill between the
parking area and Mockingbird Lake below. It's a beautiful, quiet
place to walk slowly and enjoy the abundance of pink, red, salmon, white, and
purple azalea blooms.
Here's a sampling of azaleas blooming in the Overlook Azalea Garden
in late March this year:
There are also a few Mountain laurels in this area .
. . . and this striking type of Pieris:
I took these pictures of the lower part of the Overlook Azalea Garden
from the main road as I was driving to my next destination within the
I took the next photos as I was driving clockwise around Mountain
Creek Lake to the second largest collection of azaleas in the park, the
Callaway Brothers Azalea Bowl:
Above and below: In
addition to about 10 miles of bike paths, cyclists have
a safe lane to themselves on
one-way roads like this one at Callaway Gardens.
Continued on the next page: more colorful azaleas,
another scenic lake, and the beautiful memorial chapel at the Azalea
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
Casey-Girl, and Holly-Pup
© 2019 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil